The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Ca.)

August 9, 2002

Weezer Inserts More Rock Into Its Music: Quirky: Turning Out A Rush Of New Music, The Band Is Enjoying A Creative Wave.

Cathy Maestri; The Press-Enterprise

Less geek. More rock.

Weezer's reputation for sweet retro-pop and frequent hiatuses
has been put to rest by a burst of buzzing guitars and a steady
stream of new music. And just in time -- the band's
mini-festival of quirky indie rockers comes just as nu-metal has
lost its stranglehold on alternative radio. You might even
consider the Enlightenment Tour as the revenge of the nerds.

"I'm very aware of what's happening, and I'm very excited," said
guitarist Brian Bell.

"We wanted the Strokes on the (East Coast) tour, and Dashboard
Confessional," he said. "I want to remain current and contemporary."

Today's show also features Sparta, with Rooney, Home Town Hero,
AM Radio and Third Grade Teacher on a side stage. "We're actually
very boring people, and the more bands there are, the more fun
it'll be," Bell said.

The tour is also giving Weezer a chance to engage in some
serious Foosball matches with fans -- the ups and downs of one
can be heard in the background as Bell talks.

Weezer became geeky alternative heroes with 1994's self-titled
paean to '70s power pop and catchy hooks, but a less-enthusiastic
reception for the more complex "Pinkerton" two years later --
coupled with several hiatuses as singer/lyricist Rivers Cuomo
studied at Harvard -- left even band members unsure of Weezer's
status. Bassist Matt Sharp left to concentrate on the Rentals.

By 2000, Weezer felt fortunate to get a few dates on the 2000
Warped tour: "Wow, we're really lucky these guys are letting us
on the bill," Bell recalled. But it seems many of the skate-punk
kids, turned off by rap-rock, had discovered "Pinkerton," and
the band was hailed as returning heroes. "Yeah, absolutely, we
were surprised," Bell said. "It was very welcoming."

Momentum regained, the band quickly recorded a second "Weezer"
-- this one known as the "green album" for its pale lime cover
-- with the Cars' Ric Ocasek producing. It debuted at No. 4 on
the Billboard charts last spring, and "Hash Pipe" and "Island in
the Sun" became summer anthems. "We still kind of have songs
from that period that we might include on the fifth album," Bell
said.

The tour was problematic -- Sharp's replacement, Mikey Welsh,
checked into a psychiatric hospital and later quit -- but the band
barely skipped a beat, replacing him with Broken's Scott Shriner,
now a permanent member. "He's workin' out great -- we really feel
like, especially live, that we have become much better
improvisers," Bell said. (When Shriner was tackled onstage as he
made his debut with the band at last year's Inland Invasion in
Devore, it wasn't by an unhappy purist but an overenthusiastic
friend, Bell said.)

A year later and Weezer had yet another album ready. This time
they debuted at No. 3 with "Maladroit" -- which is, of course,
anything but.

Like its predecessor, it's heavier on prog-rock guitar than the
original "blue album" hits "Undone (The Sweater Song)," "Say It
Ain't So" and the stubbornly cheerful "Buddy Holly." But the
rocking-out "Maladroit" is unmistakably Weezer, as evidenced by
touches like the sweet groove that cuts through "Burndt Jamb."

Ocasek wasn't available, so the band went ahead and produced it
themselves. "We're fairly competent, (though) it always helps to
have that objective point of view," Bell said.

The video for the current single, "Keep Fishin'," is flirting
with "TRL"-sized success on MTV, aided by the participation of the
Muppets. "It's very fortunate that they agreed to it," Bell said.
Gonzo and Kermit sing backup, and Animal winds up playing drums
when Wilson gets wrapped up in Miss Piggy's dressing room.

"Videos are a very fine line of making you feel lame," said
Bell, who was paired with head-banging penguins. At least the
Muppeteers came out looking cool, he said. "They were
hysterical. They were 10 times the entertainers we are."
(Making-of clips for the downright-adorable video are available
online.)

There's already plenty of talk about the next album -- later
this month, Weezer will start a six-week break and then head
back to the studio. "We're working at a very sporadic pace,"
Bell said. "It's always amazing when there's a creative wave --
it's great." Cuomo has been quoted as saying the band will have
another record ready early next year. "It just turned out that
we were working at our pace at this point. . . It seems like
time is always an issue," Bell said.

The band's time on hiatus certainly wasn't wasted -- while Cuomo
was busy with his studies, drummer Pat Wilson played with
Special Goodness (which, with Shriner also onboard, played the
second stage for part of the current tour) and Bell as a member
of the Space Twins. "There's nothing better than being able to
set yourself aside and look at it in a different perspective and
use that time to better your own musical abilities," he said.

Some things remain constant with Weezer, such as the melancholy
lyrics set against catchy pop hooks, and the band's unusually
supportive fans. And while the notoriously distant Cuomo has taken
on management and publicity himself -- even sending a pre-release
sampler of "Maladroit" to press and radio, much to label Geffen's
dismay -- he's still not exactly the outgoing type.

Which is where the Foosball comes in. "It's kind of like a
meet-and-greet tournament," Bell said -- radio-station contest
winners are pitted against the band's best players, Cuomo (a
soccer fan) and Wilson (whose skills Bell attributes to his
rhythm duties). Not only has it become a big stress-reliever for
the band, Bell said, "it's also a great way to meet people and
not talk to them."

Fans "are great, of course. I'm sitting in a room full of them,
so I have to say that," Bell added. Backstage games, autograph
sessions and e-mails can only go so far, though. "We can pay them
back by making great music," Bell said. "We try."

Enlightenment: To hear samples of 5Weezer, call NewsLink, from
Riverside and Moreno Valley, (909) 222-7000; from the Hemet-San
Jacinto area, (909) 765-2833; and from Temecula-Murrieta, (909)
693-3338. Category 58126. Toll charges may apply to calls made
outside these local calling areas.

* * *

PREVIEW

Weezer

With Dashboard Confessional, Sparta, Hometown Hero, Rooney, AM
Radio and Third Grade Teacher.

When: 6 p.m. today.

Where: Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, 8800 Irvine Center Drive,
Irvine.

Admission: $22.50-$27.50.

Information: (949) 855-6111 or Ticketmaster, (714) 740-2000 and
(619) 220-8497.